Ledaig 25, 1995-2021, Hogshead 143, 50.6% – Wu Dram Clan

The flywheel that is the Wu Dram Clan seems to only be gaining speed, or frequency, of their releases. Hot on the heels of the insanely good Ardbeg and Jamaican rum comes this Ledaig 25. The spiritual follow-up to last year’s 11 year old Ledaig. The one with the tentacles.

Of course, as with anything old and most-likely-very-good, it sold out instantly, so the only way to get one now seems to be the secondary market where this bottle is already going for € 400, instead of it’s original price tag.

Image by Wu Dram Clan

Luckily, and I really do count myself lucky, I got a sample of it for reviewing.

Sniff:
There’s a definit smokiness, with a bit of a briny note. However, what stands out most is that the whisky itself is very clean. There’s a straw and wild flower note, but mostly it’s a very clean, almost Rosebank like spirit. Of course, with smoke. There is some yellow fruit sweetness with a hint of apple, pear and banana. After a minute a warm oakiness starts coming through.

Sip:
The palate is sharper than I expected from the ABV and the nose. There’s a lot of wood, quite some smoke and the straw note from the nose comes through, albeit a lot more dry than before. The fruitiness is here too, although that too is drier. No more banana, but pear skins, some grape seeds and a bit of star fruit.

Swallow:
The finish goes right back the very clean nose, although there’s a hint of candied lime that wasn’t there before. Smoke, oak, grass and some dry fruitiness. The finish is long where the grape seed dryness linger longest, with a whiff of smoke.

The combination of the dryness, with the clean spirit and the smoke reminds me of Ardbeg from yonder year, although this isn’t as fruity or subtle. Also, this is a whisky that requires quietly sitting down with it before it shows you all its beauty.

The combination of the dryness, and the fruit, together with the smoke and just a little sweet touch make for a very mature and contemplative whisky. Very well picked, it once again shows that whisky with a little bit of age behind it has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one to have come to that conclusion…

90/100

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Bowmore 20, 1997-2018, Refill Sherry cask 2414, 56.3% – Adelphi

Adelphi still is a bottler that generally puts out high quality whiskies. I do think success is not as guaranteed as it was a decade ago, but they’re still way above average. Of course, prices are way above average too, but that’s not new for this bottler.

Add to that that this whisky is a properly aged Bowmore from a sherry cask, and you’ve got my full attention. This one, from 1997 is even from a very solid vintage, but that’s starting to be true of a lot of Bowmores over the last couple of years. Except the 1980s, of course.

Let’s find out where this one sits!

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Timid, with sweet, sooty smoke. Sweet and light on the sherry. Some peaches, and sultanas. It has some coastal salinity, with hints of brine and sand. A crisp sea breeze coming in.

Sip:
The palate is a lot stronger than I expected with quite a dry and woody burn. Sawdust, charcoal, a whiff of smoke. Some peaches, dried apricots and some dusty cinnamon. The salinity is here too.

Swallow:
The finish kicks in with that burn again, but the smoke quickly turns to a more lemony, diesely mezcal like smoke. This becomes a bit more gentle than on the start of the finish. After a few seconds the sweet, smoky sherry lingers after the rest, with orange and apricot.

There’s not much about this whisky that I don’t like. Even better than that, it does things in a way that I prefer over similar things. I like it when the smokiness of a whisky is a bit mezcal-like. I like it when there are hints of lemon and soot. It’s not surprising that Bowmore is one of my favorite distilleries, after all.

This one does all these things very well, and with the typical coastal notes, some dried fruits but not an overly sweet palate, it ticks all boxes!

In short, an awesome whisky!

90/100

Available in the secondary market for € 275. Of course that’s a ludicrous amount of money, but for Bowmore of this vintage, this bottler, this age and this cask type, it’s actually on the low end of things.

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Glenrothes 22, 1996-2018, Bourbon Hogshead, 50.5% – Cadenhead’s Whisky Market Cologne

My whisky buddy RvB sometimes tours with his band, and when he does, he visits Cadenhead shops across Europe. Generally, that results in a bottle-share or two. This bottle is one of such shares, if I remember correctly.

Image from Whiskybase

And, with Monday’s Glenrothes, it’s a nice follow up to see if quality from the 1996/1997 vintage of Glenrothes is as consistent as we hope it is.

Sniff:
Very heavy on the cask. Somehow it smells of very old, tired but active (as in, imparting flavor, but not the ones hoped for) wood. Hints of vanilla, coffee and ferns. Some glue-y hint, all quite heavy.

Sip:
Pretty sharp for the ABV, with mostly dry oak and some alcohol heat at first. It gets a bit richer after a few seconds, with a hint of vanilla, some green oakiness. Surprisingly, it’s rather fresh. Mostly oak, not the flavors of previous contents. Maybe it was a refill hogshead?

Swallow:
The finish gives a boat load of vanilla, with a lot of wood too. Milk chocolate, and latte machiato. Heavy, but gentle.

Strangely, the combination of flavor imparting oak, without there being much influence of the previous contents make this a drinkable, but not overly interesting dram. Generally, something that tastes of wood is not that tasty, and you would like that wood to be combined with sherry or bourbon flavors (or whatever previous content the cask held). That hasn’t happened.

84/100

Available in Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop in Denmark, for € 120.

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Maker’s Mark 101, 50.5%

Yet another totally random sample from my shelf which I poured. Of course, on the nose there’s the typical bourbon giveaway, but before smelling it, I didn’t even know what type of whisky I was going to get.

Maker’s Mark is one of those big distilleries in Kentucky, which makes a very decent entry level bourbon that sells in the Netherlands for somewhere around € 20. It’ll never be a 90 point whisky, but it sure punches above it’s weight. As in, you can also get a Jim Beam White Label or a Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 and between those three I know where I’ll put my money.

Image by Kirsch Import

Then this 101 came out, a few years ago according to my understanding. Somehow a sample of it ended up in my collection and last week the time was there to taste it.

Sniff:
Very aromatic with a bit of a dry wheat influence. Quite intense, but not necessarily sharp. Vanilla, caramel apple, a bit of pastry. In the background there’s a bit of rancio, that deep, dark woody stuff. The dryness translates to cigar leaves too.

Sip:
The palate brings a bit more heat than I expected, but not much of the richer notes that I got on the nose. Quite surprising, but not in a very good way. It’s a bit thin, with the wheaty dryness taking control, and the somewhat sweeter vanilla and caramel notes being left behind.

Swallow:
The finish doesn’t bring back much of the richer notes. It’s a bit more in the direction of pastry than the palate was, but apart from a whiff of baking spices and Speculoos, not much is happening. Well, it’s still quite dry.

Generally I like dry whiskies, but this one is just a bit too one dimensional on the palate and finish to warrant the bite. The nose was great though, but it didn’t deliver on the palate.

I’d rather buy a bottle of the regular one. I don’t think that’s better but it’s equally drinkable and it’ll save me almost forty bucks.

80/100

Available in The Netherlands for about € 57, and quite a bit less in Germany

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Glenrothes 20, 1997-2017, Sherry Butt, 50.1% – Whisky-Fässle

Around 2017 a massive parcel of Glenrothes 1997 was released to brokers, or many bottlers only responded to things being available around that time. On this blog I reviewed three of them, but there were many more.

A bit of quick Whiskybase-ing tells me there are 50 1997 vintages released in 2017, with 44 more released in 2016. So, something happened around the 20 years mark, for this distillery.

Understandably, these were rather popular since it is well known that independent releases of Glenrothes are generally very good, where (most of) the official bottlings are okay at best. Generally, they’re quite boring, let’s call it what it is.

Image from Whiskybase

This one came from my sample stash. Someone must have given it to me semi-recently since it wasn’t too far in the back. The color of the whisky was very dark, so we can already deduce that this is a typical Glenrothes, with a good amount of sherry influence. Upon checking the whiskybase page I already saw that people tend to be enthusiastic about this one, so let’s dive right in!

Sniff:
There’s absolutely massive sherry on the nose, with heaps of the dry yeasty notes, baking spices and European oak sawdust. Some almond and raisin twig bitterness. Mulch, as in, the sweetness of decaying and rotting wood on a forest floor. Very earthy with even a hint of fried mushroom in there. Lots of baking spices, dates, plums.

Sip:
The palate has some bite to it, some chili pepper, some sharp oak notes. There’s not much of that biting, lingering heat though. Dark dried fruits like plums and dates, with the bitter note of their stones and some dark chocolate. A whiff of espresso, even. Not too sweet at all, but spicy and complex instead. Woody and woodsy. Old, wet wood, almonds, raisin twigs.

Swallow:
The finish has some bite left, but less than before. That gives more room to the fruity side of things, without completely leaving the bitterness behind. Baking spices, dates, plums, a bit of bitterness and dryness.

Hello Darkness my old friend! I’ve come to sip from you again! Anyway, this is a rather typical 1997 Glenrothes with massive sherry throughout, well integrated and with many different flavors to discover. It doesn’t have too much PX-y sweetness, which gives more room for more interesting flavors of bitterness, nuts and some spices.

90/100

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Westport 12, 2004-2016, Sherry Butt 900053, 54.3% – Wilson & Morgan

This one has to start with a bit of clarity.

Westport is a randomly chosen name used for certain blended malts. These blended malts are always (with a grain of salt, since there’s no definite certainty on it, due to it being ‘chosen’) a moniker for tea-spooned Glenmorangie.

So, while they can’t officially tell you it’s a Glenmorangie, since there’s a tenth of a percentage of other stuff in there too, it should be considered as such. So, we’re talking about a sherry cask matured Glenmorangie.

That sherry cask is worth mentioning, since the whisky has the color of straw, and there would have been no indication about sherry having been in the same cask based on that. Let’s find out if we can discover that elsewhere.

Image from Whiskybase

Sniff:
Lots of dry floral notes. Straw, dried flowers, dandelion. It moves towards barley quickly, and even some oak shavings. A bit more dry than I’d expect from a Glenmorangie. There’s a bit of a mineral astringency in it, like Sauvignon Blanc without the fruitiness. Pebbles and ferns.

Sip:
The palate is a bit more sweet than the nose suggested, although there’s also a lot more bite than I expected too. The peppery style of heat with an added dryness of the whisky’s character bite rather fiercely. Still, some straw and dried flowers, with barley and apple pie.

Swallow:
The finish is, once again, a bit more sweet, a bit more typical of the distillery. There’s still some straw, but the focus is more towards pastry, apple pie mostly. Barley, some honey is there. Not without a bite on the way out either.

The answer is no. I can’t find the sherry cask here. It doesn’t bring any of the baking spices, nor the dried fruit or the richer notes you generally associate with a sherry cask. Of course, this could be an Nth fill instead of anything fresh, but then I don’t see the point of mentioning it.

Still, the whisky itself, despite not being overly sherry-cask-definable, is rather solid. It’s a bit atypical for the Glenmorangie that we’re associating this with, but there are enough interesting flavors passing the revue for another sip.

So, yes, it’s pretty good, although anything but typical.

86/100

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Bruichladdich 11, 2007-2019, Cask 3355, 63.8% – 12 Barrels

12 Barrels is not really a bottler of the traditional type. It’s actually a club of mutually interested friends who happened to buy several casks when casks were still sort-of affordable, and available. In the past they’ve released some very affordable bottles, but you would have to know one of the guys to be able to pry one loose.

This Bruichladdich came out a few years ago and when people have 11 year old Bruichladdich for sale for about € 60 per bottle, I’m willing to take a gamble and get myself one.

Image from Whiskybase

The Kilchoman they bottled, as well as the Tomatin and the Tullibardine were surprisingly good, after all.

Sniff:
Lots of malt, dry and slightly sweet. It’s strong, but not as strong as I expected. A bit of cork and hessian, with a whiff of engine oil. Some red apples, a bit of salinity.

Sip:
Again, very strong. The ABV is quite noticable here. Very malty, with lots of chili heat. A bit of engine oil with apples, somehow. Slightly more mineral than on the nose, so some iron and apples, slate.

Swallow:
The heat lingers in your mouth, but is not as prominent on the way down. A bit warming. Not overly flavorful.

I respect someone’s patience for not bottling something that they like for 11 long years. And in this case I’m not entirely sure what more time in oak would have done. It’s a very strange whisky. It’s way stronger than 11 years in oak, with the angel’s share slowly taking some percentage points off, should be. And since there’s not too much oak flavor, I think this was a very tightly grained cask with not much interaction between spirit and wood happening.

That makes it a bit too strong, and makes it so that it doesn’t deliver enough flavor to be a dram I really like.

80/100

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Johnnie Walker Black Label Islay Origin, 12yo, 42%

Image from Whiskybase

There is no superlative to describing my wonderment at why this is bottled at 42%.

Almost like someone wants to admit that bottling at a slightly higher ABV is better for flavor and depth compared to 40%, but doesn’t want to admit that all those people going up to 43% a decade or two, three ago were right.

Anyway, Islay Origin. I have no background information to this. There’s of course the facts that Caol Ila and Lagavulin are the core of Johnnie Walker Black Label, and with this being ‘Islay Origin’ I expect that this is more so for this bottling than for the regular one. Apart from that, there’s marketing blurbs about intensity and the most powerful release in the origin series, and so on.

Let’s just dive in!

Sniff:
On the nose it’s almost like a 40-ish% Caol Ila. A little bit less intense due to it being blended, but it’s a very clear focus on the smoky aspects. A whiff of diesel and bonfire smoke. Some vanilla and sweeter bourbon cask-y scents too, almost some custard and pie. Strudel, maybe?

Sip:
On the palate you initially get a bit of a peppery bite, but it quickly turns a little bit thin with even an acidic note. Not overly weird for a lighter, peated whisky, but it surprised me nonetheless. Still quite some smoke, bonfire and embers. Some engine grease and diesel, slightly creamy. So, quite Caol-Ila-y again. The custart and pastry notes are back too, but that pepper brings some heat and dryness which balances it rather nicely.

Swallow:
The finish continues down the same lines, although the pepper vanishes quickly. With that it becomes rather sweet, with lots of custard and pastry notes. The thinness (?) is less obvious here.

I was expecting this to be a bit of a watered down Islay Malt, and it more or less is. There’s a lot of Caol Ila happening, which is not a bad thing. I guess the weird thing here is that the Caol Ila 12 is about the same price, and unless you’re very much into the lighter aspect of a blended whisky, there’s no good reason for Johnnie Walker Black Label Islay Origin to be a thing.

It’s nice. It’s not bad. It’s also a bit generic, and the fact that it is a blended whisky takes away some depth, some idiosyncrasy.

Of course, this is from a ‘tasting’ perspective. I can imagine if people like Johnnie Walker and don’t want to spend too much time with a whisky, this has a place.

82/100

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Ardbeg 20, 2001-2021, Refill Bourbon Barrel 348, 46.6% – OB for Wu Dram Clan

Right after I reviewed their epic rum, I got an email another sample was making its way to my humble abode. This time, a 20 year old Single Cask Ardbeg, under the original label from the distillery.

Knowing the level of quality that Wu Dram Clan aspires to, I knew that this must be quite something, and to be honest I was a bit surprised that Ardbeg had casks available that reached this echelon.

Of course, as with most of these bottlings, this will most likely never see a shop shelf and currently sits in the secondary market at Whiskybase for a ‘mere’ € 3000 (not a typo). Not entirely surprising, the original price was € 1900. A stellar amount of money for a bottle of booze, but with the industry being what it is, I don’t think anyone sees this as something new, but as confirmation.

Let’s dive in!

Kan een afbeelding zijn van drinken, eten en binnen
Image by Wu Dram Clan

Sniff:
Warming with lots of bonfires, charcoal and bone dry peat. A slightly acidic hint too, with notes of ammonia, star fruit, granny smith apples, a hint of kiwi fruit and straw. Scents of harbour and tar and rope come up too.

Sip:
The dryness combined with white pepper make for a rather impactful approach, astringent almost. Ground and freeze dried lemon, lemon balm and a fatty feel of tar and rope. Some brine, straw and that awesome note of ammonia. A bit off nuttiness from the slightly fatty mouthfeel with almonds and macadamia. There is smoke, but it’s rather timid.

Swallow:
The finish is very reminiscent of much older Ardbeg, with a kippery note, washed up wood and salt crust (like on boats). Some fruits again, star fruit and crisp apple. Slightly acidic,more like lime than lemon now. Tar, rope, canvas sails, marram grass.

That note of ammonia is something I normally associate with Bowmore. They have a lower level of peat smoke in their whisky, and maybe that’s why it gets a bit more wiggle room. I find it awesome to encounter that in this Ardbeg and love it all the more for it.

The complexity of the fruit, the smoke and seaside harbour notes makes for a great experience, and what intrigues me most of all is that it still feels very well integrated. It’s not that it’s split into levels, or a jumble of flavors. It’s a single thing that slowly reveals all different aspects of the same whisky.

Absolutely stellar.

93/100

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“Ord Over 16”, Glen Ord, 16, 1998-2014, 42.5% – Dornoch Castle

Based on the label I was going for ‘That Boutique-u Whisky Company’, and based on the Dornoch / Thompson brothers I was going for that. Neither seems to hold any water and this is categorized as a random bottler on Whiskybase. Luckily, there was a vintage and an ABV on the label of my sample bottle.

Anyway, Glen Ord. In Muir of Ord. A distillery I sort-of visited in 2013, but which I didn’t tour. They didn’t allow my then zero year old daughter inside in a carrier, and I didn’t want to make my family wait for an hour and a half. It’s not like there’s a lot of entertainment in the direct vicinity of the distillery and my wife didn’t have her drivers license yet.

Diageo runs the place, with a huge maltings on the same premises, malting barley for various distilleries. The whisky from the distillery isn’t as available as it should, at least not from the distillery itself. It’s bottled under the Singleton label and exported mainly to Asia. Both are a shame since the official Singleton releases aren’t as good as the distillery is capable of, and the popularity that should exist doesn’t happen since no one ever gets to try more than the occasional Glen Ord.

Image from Whiskybase

Let’s see where this one sits, because I do have some expectations.

Sniff:
Very timid on the nose with some grass and, strangely, a whiff of leather. Some farmy notes in the background, even. With a minute or two in the glass more scents start to come up. Pears, apples, some earthy, decaying stuff too. A bit of a thick sweetness without it being like pastry or desserts.

Sip:
The palate continues down the strangely sweet, earthy road. Some vanilla in the background, but it’s mostly grass and hay, farmy notes. Green oaky notes too with moss, soil and mulch. Surprisingly autumnal for a distillery that I normally associate with a more summery style of whisky.

Swallow:
A rather long finish, with mostly the earhty notes that linger. Some sweetness, but less than before. A whiff of vanilla and straw.

Even though it’s not a very typical whisky for the distillery, it’s a rather gorgeous dram. A lot of things are happening and the notes of decaying stuff at a farm make for a far better drinking experience than the descriptors might suggest.

Of course this bottle is not really obtainable anymore, but it is a very good one.

88/100

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